Remember this glorious summer come January

Hold this growing season close to your heart. Treat it like a treasure to be taken from its cache in the depths of January and lovingly remembered. This is truly a glorious summer. 

That said, the slugs are here. I have long resisted the wholesale killing of these mollusks; after all I have created the perfect environment just by dint of planting a garden. Easy pickings. 

My first line of defense is to keep a clean garden. I remove all the low hanging leaves on the vegetables; this deters easy access for the slugs. These are heaped onto the compost pile and quickly covered with grass clippings or dirt. When I am harvesting I don’t leave any spent foliage laying in the beds or paths. Everything goes into the compost. Lettuce and cabbage are like magnets. Get them harvested for compost; there are plenty of other ways to make a salad. I like to plant red cabbage as it is more resistant to the slug onslaught. 

It seems early but the harvest is in full swing. There is something so final about harvest. So very end-of-the-season. I inevitably drag my feet at this stage of the game. I just do NOT want it to end. But, there I am, picking peas, kale, chard, broccoli, romanesque cauliflower and strawberries.

And each harvest season we are convinced that THIS is the year we need a second freezer. 

The French fingerling potatoes have hit the oven. There is no point in saving them for storage because we have yet to solve our nonexistent root cellar issue. 

The onion harvest is puny. I haven’t a clue what happened here, but the Stuttgart sets that always make such excellent mature onions failed. Completely. As did the seeds for the shallots, nary a one germinated. For the shallots I bought a slew at a local nursery but they turned out to be leeks. Oh well. Leeks will do it, but now I have a ton of them. If it isn’t one thing, it’s another — like weather or pests. 

The garlic is looking good, not ready to harvest and it is usually among the first of the crops to come in. I put in my order about this time each year to be assured of getting my favorite. It will be mailed later this fall because it is commonly believed that fall planting is the way to go. Not for me. I put my order of garlic on top of the refrigerator for the entire winter and in the spring plant individual cloves into flats in the greenhouse and then transplant them into the garden. This makes the most reliable harvest for me. When I fall plant, I sometimes get a wildly successful harvest the following summer, but most times I don’t. Spring planting guarantees  a lovely crop, enough to give as birthday presents to those who really and truly care about garlic. 

There are many mail-order sources for garlic. I use Filaree Garlic Farm for two reasons: They are reliable and their catalog is a wealth of information. 

What I really need during the harvest season is someone to cook for us. I know. You would think that with all these vegetables, this truly wide variety that I grow, that I would be inspired to concoct fabulous meals. Well, I don’t have time. Pure and simple. 

Making a kale salad is stretching my patience. Delicious as it is, I would rather be deadheading the perennials. Or weeding. Or watering. Or trimming edges. Or staking errant delphiniums. Or listening to grandchildren. Not cooking. 

Make a sauce for the salmon? Get real. Grill it on a cedar plank? It needs to be soaked for 30 minutes — no time, gotta get it cooked NOW.  Winter is the time to cook. Now is the time for simplicity — and the late James Beard, bless his heart, agrees.

But really, imagine someone coming into your garden. That someone would be wearing clean clothes and have clean fingernails. That someone would cruise through the garden, choose the best of the best, whisk a selection into the house and give us a whistle when all was done. But how to pay? I would need to become yet another Homer nonprofit, asking for a grant to fund the fantasy. Oh well, fun to dream.

On to the perennial beds. Goodness I do have a lot of purple this year. Where did it all come from? Where is my ability to plan? What am I thinking when I start flat after flat of purple plants? Do I ever read my garden journal? I actually keep track of bloom times. The catch here is that every year is different. The peonies have a bloom range of three weeks. Can’t even plan a party around that. The blue poppies have been blooming since early June and are still at it. The columbine just keep on going. Here comes the campanula glomerata (there are those who detest this plant, but — hey — it’s purple) and it is beyond tall. It NEVER gets this tall. What a year. 

Oh the lilies. They are having a great year, too. I have only Asiatics, do not be tempted by anything else. The Asiatics will bloom and multiply and bring you years and years of joy. Stick to Asiatics. They come in glorious colors and various heights. You can easily find your heart’s delight. 

Now is when the annuals come into their own. Now is when you know why you planted them. They are filling in beautifully, taking over the gaps of perennials that decided to take a rest until next season. 

I have a soft spot for California poppies. No orange, but soft pinks and pink swirled with yellow. Lovely, and not too tall. Godetia comes in next. It is starting to bloom and once it gets going will provide color up to frost. 

The perennial filipendula Kehome is a fall bloomer and is still waiting to make a show, combined with the godetia, my eye is drawn away from anything that looks forlorn. The end does not seem so near. 

Harvest. Weed. Stake. Eat. Enjoy your garden.

Rosemary Fitzpatrick is a longtime Homer gardener. She has been writing Kachemak Gardener since 1990.


Gardeners’ Weekend is here

The Homer Garden Club will sponsor its eighth annual Gardeners’ Weekend this Saturday and Sunday. 

Debra Prinzing, a Seattle- and Los Angeles-based president of the Garden Writers Association, award-winning author and proponent of an emerging eco-floral design movement will give presentations at 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center 

On Sunday, five unique and varied Homer gardens will be featured in a tour from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Fee is $10 for Homer Garden Club members, $15 for non-members. Following the tour, Gardeners’ Weekend participants are invited to a reception at Bear Creek Winery from 5-6:30 p.m.

For more information, call 226-3404 or 235-3763 or visit